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Hispanic Chamber Leader Hopes to Expand Queens BID's Reach

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TWC News: Queens Hispanic Business Leader
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Small business owners in Queens are speaking out saying that for years they've struggled financially without knowing how to get help, and now the newly elected president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says he's determined to change that. NY1's Arlene Borenstein filed the following report.

For some New Yorkers, a morning pick-me-up means bypassing the big name coffee shops and heading into Sagitario Bakery, a mom and pop bakery in Jackson Heights.

"It's a lot friendlier," said one customer. "It's nice to have a smiling face to start your day."

Sonia Guzman and her husband Alfonso own the cafe near the 7 train on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue. Earlier this week, the new president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Alfonso Quiroz, paid them a visit.

"My goal is really to talk with them and to listen and find out what they're concerned about," Quiroz said.

Guzman bought the coffee shop four years ago and says she would like to make improvements but can't afford to.

"Change the machines. They are old," Guzman said.

It's a similar challenge two blocks away at El Diario Bookstore, although it's been part of the community for more than 20 years.

"Day to day survival basically," said Ruben Ramirez of El Diario Bookstore.

Ramirez told Quiroz it's difficult getting a credit line, not just for him, but for many of the immigrant families that own small shops in the area.

"If the family doesn't have their own money, if the family can't pitch in their own credit, the business struggles," Ramirez said.

However, a solution for Ramirez and other struggling small businesses could be near.

Quiroz says one of his goals as president is to work with the 82nd Street Partnership to expand the Business Improvement District from 175 stores to a thousand.

"This will really be an investment not only in the neighborhood but investment for these small stores. Now they'll have a group advocating for them as well. Making sure the streets are cleaned, making sure there are promotions going on," Quiroz said.

Opponents say it's a financial burden on small businesses who fall under the BID because owners would have to pay a fee. But both Ramirez and Guzman agree they'd be willing to dig into their own pockets to make some change.

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